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Chapter Twelve

By Paul Schroder

the geeks

Well, the gang is all here. The rag-tag army of fifth graders march, hale and hearty, to do battle in Potter's Field. Their seventh grade non-coms lead the way. I would say that this is one army where 'don't ask, don't tell' is the watchword of the day ... heheheh. For this chapter we shall ask a new recruit to share his impressions of our geeky trio and their guests. Corporal Samuels, or Kyle if you will, does the honors ...

"Hup two three four!" Sergeant Jeremy Wist is in the lead of this single-file gang of misfits and is calling cadence. Not that you would notice anyone actually falling into step or anything. I'm pretty sure that at least half of these guys couldn't tell their left foot if you painted a big 'L' on it. I can't help but chuckle as we hike through these woods. These guys are definitely something else.

Jeremy asked me to give Scully a hand when he passed out his invitations. He said his little brother is so shy that it might be kind of difficult for him. Boy Howdy, this kid isn't just shy - he's paranoid! The times I'd smiled at him and said 'Hi' in the hallways at school, he'd break the sound barrier running away ... chuckle. Jeremy says it's because the little dude would panic when he couldn't think of anything to say. My gosh, how hard is 'Hi' I ask you? But that's OK; I know all about panic. Get me anywhere near a spider and I could probably crawl up my own butt-hole trying to escape! It went pretty good though. I met him in the hallway first thing that morning. He handed me my invitation and we actually talked for a little bit. I told him how I'd been trying to talk with him since school started. Haa, haa ... that just made him blush and he was getting ready to split on me. I didn't let him though cuz I grabbed him by the shoulder and said "Uh, uh, little dude. We got invitations to pass out!" I guess giving him a game plan helped him cuz he was OK after that.

I followed him around while he passed out the invites. My job, according to Jeremy, was to step in and help out if it looked like Scully was going to panic and do his faster-than-light escape trick. I stood close enough so I could grab him if I had to ... chuckle. But he did just fine! He really surprised the you-know-what out of me though with the people he invited. You could have blown me away with a sneeze when the little dude handed invites to Scooter and Possum Hughes and then hands one to Timmy Jones. Timmy is a pretty good friend of mine and I happen to know that these three have a 'thing' together. You know ... they really, really like each other ... wink! During a ball game one evening, I noticed those red-headed twins in the bleachers and they were screaming out "Go Tiger, he's our man" and stuff like that.

"What's up with those little dudes?" I asked Timmy. I commented that they were usually clinging to him like a coat of paint. Then Timmy just chuckled and said they were his 'boy-toys' and then winked at me. Hmm ... I didn't take that conversation any further for awhile cuz I felt myself blushing like crazy. I had a pretty good idea just what he meant by 'toys' though. I haven't met many gay people in my life but Timmy has to be the most open one I know of. Heck, aside from the Hughes twins, he's the only one I know of here in Middle School. I guess when you get up into Jr. High, or especially High School, then they start opening up a bit. I'll say this about Timmy, it's a good thing for him he's as big as he is or he'd get plenty of flack at Middle School. As it is, people just kind of mumble behind their hands, making sure they are nowhere in the guy's hearing distance. One of the other Little League players made reference to the twins once, close enough for Timmy to hear. The guy said "someone should spray those insects with a can of Black Fag", which was a chop at Timmy because he's black and ... well, you know. Well, Timmy gave him a chop right back; it wasn't a verbal chop either and it put the dude out for the count! I really don't think there will be any more puns about Black Fag* ... chuckle.

I talked to Timmy a bunch'a times after that, either during or after our Little League games. The relationship between the three of those boys just seems to fascinate me for some reason. Actually, I find myself getting a bit excited whenever I think about it ... and that, in itself, kind of worries me. So I guess I end up asking him a lot of questions about the three of them. Now, the kids in my school might talk about sex and stuff but these guys are actually doing it, or so he implies. And they're only my age - eleven! Then he told me that I should find a boy-toy of my own cuz it's healthy to keep the old sack drained. This scared the beJesus out of me ... does he see something in me that tells him I might like that sort of stuff? Besides, there isn't anything in my sack at age eleven anyway. With this guy's deep voice though, he just might have something in his sack. And that makes me wonder if we will actually be doing some skinny-dipping at this pool the invite mentioned. I'm curious to see if Timmy really does have a drainable sack ... heheheh! I'll say one thing though, he seems to keep those twins pretty happy. They are in a constant fit of giggles when they are around him.

And then, when I saw Timmy giving little Scully that big hug earlier today, it made me kind of nervous. Now, I don't know if Scully might be that way or not, but I do know that he's a shy and impressionable kid. I also know that I like him a lot and I started having visions of Scully being one more of Timmy's boy-toys. I don't know why that should bother me, Scully has the right to be close to whoever he wants. But I was kind of hoping ... well, never mind.

OK, that brings up another big question I have. I mean, Scully probably knows that the Hughes twins and Timmy are ... well, you know. I didn't know the other two kids he invited, but I'm really suspicious now! I mean, they had their hands all over each other back when we were forming up. So I guess what I'm wondering is, did Scully know this ahead of time? So does that mean Scully is that way too? And the way the little guy stares at me ... I'm beginning to think he really likes me ... I mean REALLY likes me ... giggle. Well, as pervy as it sounds, and as much as the idea scares me, I think I really, REALLY like him too!

"Company halt" Haa ... haa ... haa, it looks like an old silent film of the Keystone Cops! Some guys stop only to get banged into by the boy behind him! Some guys have their rifles over their shoulder while a couple are pretending to sweep the area for bad guys. Both the Hughes brothers have crowded up on either side of Timmy. Boys are dropping their masks or their guns. Jeremy and Michael are just shaking their heads and laughing. I'm glad they aren't expecting a whole lot out of their recruits.

"Corporals Howe and Samuels, front and center!" shouts Michael.

Me and Scully trot up to the front. Michael's got one hand covering his mouth and I can see his shoulders shaking. He's giggling like crazy. You can hear the boys saying stuff like "quite pushing - are we there yet - whoops, I dropped my gun again - I gotta whiz - where's the boy with the purdy shirt - I said quit pushing numb-nuts!" And poor Michael's shoulders start shaking more and more. Jeremy can see he's in no condition to give me and Scully orders so he says "you guys stay up here with us while I address the troops." Scully and I nod OK.

"All right men, give me your attention. Hey ... Trevor, quit dropping your gun, they're expensive! Quiet down guys!"

"Sorry fellows, someone keeps pinching me on the arse .. heheh!" Laughter from the ranks.

"Company, atten-HUT!" Michael yells.

Everyone snaps to attention, more or less; voices quiet down. Michael says ...

"OK guys. If you look off to your left at that meadow, just below this hill, that will be our primary battleground. Now look beyond the meadow and towards the hills behind it ... do you see the steam?"

Calls of "Oh yeah, check it out," and "neat-o, what's burning?"

Michael answers "that steam is coming from a natural hot spring. We'll be soaking our battle-weary bodies in there this afternoon".

Someone yells out "oh,oh ... naked wiener time." Giggles from the troops.

"Not me!" Trevor says, "I brought a bathing suit. Wait until you see it ... it's smashing!"

"Boo" and "hissss" from the troops. And then, from Timmy ...

"Don't be a wuss Richie-Rich, we'll just strip ya anyways!"

Cries of "yeah" and "woo-woo" and "strip him now" from the ranks.

Trevor colors up and tries to shrink into the background. Marc laughs and wraps his arm around him.

"It's alright Richie," he says, "I'll protect ya. Course I'll help strip ya too, but I'll protect ya ... hee, hee!"

Scully's laughing. He's so cute. He snorts when he laughs ... haa, haa! Oh my gosh, Jeremy's snorting too ... ooh, so's Michael! That's so funny, it sounds like a pig farm up here ... haa, haa! These guys really are geeky. They all sound like my brother Tyson. Now, he's the King of the Geeks, I swear.

"Alright guys, to the right of that steam, in those trees, is a camping area. We're heading there first to drop off our packs and have a short classroom lecture on gun safety. Then we'll load up your guns and have a bit of target practice."

Jeremy speaks up. "We'd march you guys over there but I'm thinking that's a bit of a lost cause. So let's just wander down. And Trevor, hang on to that gun or I'll make you wear it like a suppository!" Laughter from the troops then someone asks ...

"What's a supposratory?" Someone answers with "it's butt-hole medicine ... you butt-hole!"

Then Trevor replies to Jeremy's threat with, "I'll hang on to it, if Marcus will stop pinching my arse!"

More laughter from the troops as we head down the hill. One of the boys yells out ...

"I think he's just trying to insert a suppository Richie." The laughter increases. Then someone replies ...

"Yeah Richie ... the suppository he has between his legs!"

Kids are howling now! More guns are dropped. Michael and Jeremy just shake their heads. We're more of a mob than a formation. Some run ahead while others lag behind. Scully and I are walking side by side. I look down at him and he looks up at me. Gosh, his face practically glows when he smiles. I know he's smart and everything but those glasses make him look like a little Einstein. And that mop of black hair! I don't think I've ever seen it combed. He looks like he should be puffing on a pipe and spouting equations. I can't help but giggle. That seems to make him smile more so I put an arm across his shoulders and we walk through the meadow that way.

My gosh it's gorgeous up here! The air is still crisp and you can see your breath. We are close to the spring and clouds of steam rise up a short ways into the air before disappearing into the sky. Some of the trees have turned red and some have yellow leaves. Most of the trees are bright green firs though. The tall grass of the meadow has turned yellow and is lying down; it makes for easy walking. We walk up to the pool and make a semi-circle around it. Of course everyone has to kneel down and stick a hand into the water. Astonished cries of ...

"bitchen" and "oh, it's so warm" or "screw the war, let's swim!" I stick my hand in and it feels very hot compared to the chilly air. Suddenly I have a vision of my little buddy here in the buff and soaking in this pool. God ... I hate these kinds of thoughts. I have been having them so often lately. I shake my head a bit to try and lose the image. Scully says ...

"Wait until your floating in this Kyle. It's soo bitchen. You lie here and listen to the birds and just let your thoughts drift. It's soo relaxing."

Scully is kneeling beside me. I look down at him and get the most tender feeling. Those brown eyes are glittering at me and he's showing a row of white teeth behind his smile. I've never had such a strong feeling before and I don't know what to think of it. I just know it feels nice and I feel nice and Scully looks nice and I am just wrapped in this warm gentle glow. I tell him ...

"I'm glad we're finally friends Scully. I'm having a really good time with you."

His grin seems to get even broader, his face appears to light up.

"Really Kyle? Really? Cuz ... I was just thinking the same thing about you." Then he looks down at the pool and says...

"I have a very hard time talking to someone when I like them but don't know them. I get all tongue-tied and panicky."

I giggle a little and say, "I've kinda noticed, Scully. But tell me, does that mean you really like me ... I mean really, really like me?"

The little guy kinda glances around and then leans up and gives me a quick bus on my cheek. Then he giggles and gets up and starts running downstream towards some trees. I felt my heart leap when he kissed me! I put my hand up to my cheek; I can still feel his little lips there. Now it's my turn to giggle and I jump up to my feet and chase after him. I hear Michael call out ...

"OK guys, follow those two to the camp ground."

Oh ... bugger! I was hoping for a little alone time with Scully. I find him sitting at this neat looking camp table. He looks up at me and giggles some more. Oh, cripe ... haa, haa ... he's doing that snorting thing again! And he keeps using his fore-finger to push his glasses up his nose but the darn things don't want to stay there. I sit down opposite him and lean my forearms on the table. Then, on some impulse, I reach up and lift the glasses off of his face. I stare at him for a dozen seconds or so before the other guys start to show up. Scully reaches over, takes his glasses from my hand and slips them back on. Then he gives me a smile and a wink. Oh gosh ... there goes that snort again ... haa, haa!

"Grab a seat guys" Jeremy tells the troops.

Timmy and the twins sit at the table with us. There is still room on the end of the bench so Michael sits down too. Marc and Trevor are sitting on the edge of the fire pit. Jeremy stands where everyone can see him; he's holding a paint-ball gun.

"All right guys. You can see that this gun has a bright red plug in the end of the barrel. All your guns do. You will keep that plug in place whenever we aren't in battle." Then he goes on about how to safely carry a loaded gun and such.

Jeremy wanders over to the table, opens a pack and removes a handful of paint-balls. He counts out 30 of them and drops them into the hopper on top of his gun.

"This gun is now loaded and ready for battle. There are thirty paint-balls in the hopper. Most guns hold about two hundred rounds, but thirty is all you are going to be allowed for each battle. The things are expensive for this many guys ... besides, they sting like crazy when they hit you so you don't want to be shot that many times ... har, har! This will force you go slowly and to take careful aim so you don't run out of ammo."

One of the boys giggles and says ...

"Look ... Richie-Rich, the hopper is full of suppositories!" Jeremy has to wait for the howling to die down. He continues with ...

"Your guns all have fresh CO2 cartridges in them. That's the compressed air, or carbon dioxide actually, that shoots the paint-ball out of the gun. These balls travel at a wicked, fast speed; around three hundred feet per second! And, they can hit a target anywhere from 50 to 75 yards away! That's why they sting so darn bad if you get shot up close. They WILL leave little bruises on your body! So you will definitely enjoy your little soak in the hot pool afterwards ... har, har, har ... snort, snort!"

Kids are squirming in their seats now; visions of their bodies covered in massive, painful bruises. I can hear coats and parkas being zipped up tight. Scully and I are both chuckling. I wonder how many of these guys are having second thoughts about being warriors? Actually, there's just a little bit of pain involved with paint ball. Many players think that this is a good thing because it adds to the fear factor. It also makes it a little more realistic because players don't want to get hit. And ... close up shots HURT!

" OK ... Skull, Mic and Kyle, lets get these guy's guns loaded up and go do some practice shooting."

With the guns all loaded, barrel plugs in place and face masks secured, we head out into the meadow.

"Stop here guys." Michael says. "See those cardboard targets we set up for you, the closer ones?" and he points to a row of six cardboard squares about fifty feet away.

"We will practice shooting at these targets, one person at a time, until everyone hits at least one. Then we will shoot for the further targets beyond those." and he points to another row of targets about double the distance from us.

"When you can all hit one of those furthest targets you will be regular killing machines and ready to do battle!

Cries of "yahoo" and "I'll moider da bums" and "you guys are all dead meat."

"Come here Scooter ... or whichever one you are." Michael says, pointing to one of the Hughes brothers.

"I'm Possum" the kid says, walking up to Michael.

"Ok Possum," and Michael puts the gun up to the kid's shoulder and shows him how to aim.

"You're aiming at the first target on the left. When you're ready just ... whoa ... hold it!" And he turns to the rest of us.

"I forgot to mention. These guns will fire just as fast as you can pull the trigger. A couple of you have fully automatic rifles. That means you only have to pull the trigger once and you can shoot all thirty balls in about one second flat. NOT a smart idea! Conserve your ammo."

He turns back to Possum and says ... "OK little buddy, fire when ready."

Possum pulls the butt of the gun tight into his shoulder, aims through the sights and we hear a "fffftt" come from his gun. Everyone looks up towards the first target to see it fly backwards in a cloud of white paint. Cheers erupt from his appreciative audience and Possum is jumping up and down in his excitement.

"I did it! I did it! First stinking shoot too!"

Timmy walks over and raises his hand for a high-five from the midget. "Smack" and they are grinning at each other.

"Beware the red-heads" Timmy announces. "They have had bb-guns since forever and they are both crack shots. You guys are all going to die a painted death!"

"Me, me" Scooter shouts, "let me go next" and he is jumping up and down, hardly able to contain himself.

"OK, killer" Michael says, "come on over here."

Scooter darts over beside Michael and his brother, throws the gun up against his shoulder and he hardly appears to take time to aim. He pulls the trigger, "Fffftt" and once again we look up to see the second target shoot backwards in a cloud of white paint. Darn, I want both these little buggers on my side, I'm thinking.

Well, all the new recruits get a turn at the close-in targets. It takes Timmy two tries to score a hit. Marc makes it with his first shot. Trevor only needs two shots to score a hit.

"Wow, that was a terrific feeling" Trevor announces. "I've never even held a gun before. It makes you feel powerful doesn't it?"

The rest of the guys nod their agreement as Michael lines Possum up on his furthest target. A hundred feet is a pretty good distance and so you need to learn how to shoot just a bit above the target. Michael tells him that and you can see Possum raise the barrel of his gun just slightly. We hear the gun spit and a second later there is a small, white explosion on the ground just beyond the target.

"You raised the barrel too high, bud" Michael says, "try it again."

This time it takes Possum two more tries before the target sails backwards in a white cloud of paint. Possum lifts his gun above his head with one hand and pumps it up and down; his victory salute. Everyone else gets their turn. Scooter needs three shots, like his brother, to score his bulls-eye. Trevor, surprisingly, scores a direct hit with his first shot! His eyebrows shoot up into the air and his face lights up. Now he's doing a little end post victory dance of his own, or whatever kind of dance the British do when they score.

"Alright Yanks," he announces, "it's the American War of Independance all over again! And this time, YOU LOSE!" he exclaims. Everyone is laughing with him and patting him on the back.

"You keep this up" Marc tells him, "and that shirt of yours just might survive the day after all." This gets some more laughter.

Now its Timmy's turn and it takes him five shots to reach his target. Hmm ... this kid is a natural at baseball but that won't do him a lot of good in a battle, unless it's a baseball war. The twins crowd around him and pat him and coo at him and let him know he did just fine. Timmy looks up at me and winks. Why ... that sly dog! He's deliberately missing his first shots to get those twins to paw him up like that! He's got me giggling now. Yep, I definately need to keep Scully away from this guy, he's devious. Marc steps up and takes aim. "Ffftt" and once again we have another one-shot wonder as his target flips around.

"I say Marcus, superb shot!" Trevor tells him. "We are going to make a killer team, you and I." and the two give each other a high-five.

"Ahemm," Jeremy announces. "We will be drawing straws for each battle to see who our team members are. This way no one feels like they're picked last and we get to have different allies and differnt enemies for each battle."

There is a groan or two in response to this announcement. But I think that Jeremy and Michael are right. No one likes to feel like they are last choice for any game. Being short geeks, I am sure that both Jeremy and Michael have experienced their share of those feelings. I think this makes them excellent leaders in my book. I am really growing to respect these two. And it's not just cuz one of them has the cutest little brother in the world either ... although that helps ... yep, it definitely helps. I wonder if they have been able to figure out yet that most of these guys are kinda like ... you know. Boy, are those guys going to be shocked!  

Jeremy says "OK men! This first battle is really fun. It's designed to get you used to being shot. And you will be shot!"

Anxious looks from boy to boy. A total silence wraps this normally noisy group. I look over towards Scully and he nods and grins at me. He can see the fear written on these faces as easily as I can. Michael is giggling and snorting. I sure like these guys. Jeremy continues ...

"You are going to fight a good old-fashioned duel to the death! And for this exercise, I am going to match you up with an opponent. There will be just the two of you, standing back to back. I will count from one to ten and you will both take a step on each of my counts. You know what I'm talking about, you've all seen this in the movies."

The guys are looking at one another and grinning now. This is starting to sound like fun. Heck, when you get shot it will just be one guy shooting you. How bad can one bullet feel?

"All right," he continues. "You have twenty to twenty five shots left in your guns BUT, you will only be allowed to take one shot. We are going to pretend that these are single-shot dueling pistols. You either hit your man or you don't. If neither of you scores a hit, you will fight another duel with someone else. The living participant of each duel will also be matched up with another winner. Eventually, we will have just a single winner of the dueling competition. Sgt Wist and I have an award for this winner. NOW ... IS EVERYONE PSYCHED AND READY FOR THIS?" he shouts the last sentence.

"Woo-woo" and "hell yeah" and all sorts of verbal enthusiasm explode around us. These guys are all charged up.

"OK" Jeremy says, "Scooter and Possum, you guys are up first."

The two boys grin at each other. I wonder, as brothers, how often this scenario has cropped up in their imaginations? Right On - the chance to blow my brother away!

Michael stands them back to back. He makes them hold their rifles in one hand and pointing up in the air.

"On the final count, you will turn and take out your opponent." Jeremy tells them. "Now gentlemen, you can play this two ways ... you can try for a quick shot and kill your opponent before he can get off a shot. But remember, if you miss with your one shot you have to stand there and give the other guy all the time in the world to aim at you and kill you. Myself, when that happens, I like to go for a testicle shot ... har, har, har ... snort, snort! Your other option is to take time to aim but try to do it faster than your opponent."

This seems to have knocked the grin right off the twin's faces and I can see them gulping. I've played this dueling game before and it can be nerve-wracking.

"One" Jeremy yells out and both boys take a single step.

"Two" he continues just as soon as their feet have struck the ground from their first step. He maintains the count all the way to nine and both boys are about forty to fifty feet apart now.

"Ten" Jeremy shouts and both boys twist themselves around quickly. One of them flings his gun to his shoulder and, barely taking the time to aim, jerks the trigger. Fffftt, the ball flies, straight and true. However, the aim was not straight and true and he misses his target. The other boy, about to pull the trigger when he heard his opponent fire, flinches and closes his eyes. He is waiting for an impact that never happens. Slowly he opens his eyes; he realizes his brother has missed and he can take his time lining up his shot. One twin is standing, slump-shouldered, dejected and a bit frightened as he sees his brother's gun barrel lining up on him. But the shooter wants to make his brother sweat for awhile so he holds his shot. He holds his shot ... and he holds his shot. I can see perspiration beading on the forehead of the soon-to-be slain twin. Then "ffftt" and a big white stain splashes against the crotch of the victim.

"Oww!!! Son-of-a-bitch! You ..." and the victim, in obvious pain, raises his own rifle and depresses the trigger.

"Fffff-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-t-t-t-t" and he empties his gun in one long, sustained burst of gun fire! White splotches start at the knee of his opponent, travel up the thigh, hit the crotch and continue up his belly and chest!

"Ow, ow, oww!!! You son-of-a-bitch! You low-life fucking cheater! That hurt like a motherfucker you cocksucker!!!" And both boys have dropped their weapons and are rushing towards one another. Arms are flying so fast as they punch away that they are blurred like hummingbird wings in flight. They both have a continual stream of profanities coming from their mouths that would make a lesbian truckdriver blush. Now they are on the ground and still flailing away at one another. Timmy and I reach them at the same time and pry them apart. The rest of the boys are on the ground too ... laughing their asses off! I am har, haring just like a geek myself, as I put all my strength into trying to keep this boy from jumping back into battle.

The boy I'm holding yells "I'll rip your fucking head off and shove it up your ass you unclefucker!" His brother counters with ...

"Not if I rip off your arms you cheating, low-life cocksucker!"

I have to push him down on the ground and sit on him. I can't hold on to him any longer cuz I'm laughing so hard.

"Get off of me you big ... fucking ... jerk" he's screaming at the top of his lungs. "I need to rip Possum's balls off and shoot them through my gun! I'm going to shoot them up his own ass!"

"Har, har, har ... snort, snort! Oh my God ... now the geeks have got me doing it to! I am having trouble getting my breath ... I am laughing so stinking hard. "Har, har, har, har ... haa, haa, haa!"

It takes another ten minutes of boy sitting before Scooter's anger has lessened. Eventually both boys are giggling as they play the scene back through their minds. After all, it's pretty hard not to see the humor in it. That is, once the pain is gone, then I guess you can see the humor. They both received a couple of good nut shots and I know from experience it takes awhile for the pain to go down. After a bit, Scooter yells out from beneath me ...

"Hey Possum. I'm pretty sure I didn't miss you with a single one of those paint-balls! You looked like an exploding can of paint ... haa, haa, haa!"

"Well ... now that I've been shot in the nards, I know how bad I hurt you too bubba. Sorry about that."

It sounds safe to let the little dudes up so Timmy and I turn them lose. They dust themselves off and then Scooter walks up to his brother and they hug. In the meantime the rest of the troops have gotten over their laughing jag and Jeremy already has Marc and Trevor standing back to back.

"One" Jeremy calls out. When he gets to the final count, both boys turn quickly, aim and we hear both guns shoot at the same time. Trevor is struck in the center of his chest while Marc takes his on the mouthguard of his face mask.

"Phht, phht" Marc has pulled his mask off and is spitting paint out of his mouth. There are white stripes across the lower part of his face where the paint entered the breathing slits. Trevor yells at him ...

"That's what you get for saying bad words Marcus. I just washed your mouth out with soap ... ha, ha, ha!" That gets a laugh from everyone.

"OK then," Michael hollers out. "That eliminates everyone but Possum and Timmy. Possum's multiple wounds don't count cuz Scooter's shots were illegal. You two get in the starting position."

"God, this is so unfair" Timmy complains, "Possum's so short and I'm so tall, he has an unfair advantage." Timmy looks at his little buddy and tells him...

"I think you should shoot one handed to make this fair Possum."

Possum just sighs and nods his head. There's no way he'd turn down a request from his big hunk. They look so funny standing back to back. Possum just comes up to Timmy's shoulder blades. Jeremy starts the count and Timmy has a look of serious concentration on his face. Jeremy gets up to "two" and all the kids, including me, have started laughing. By the time he gets to eight the laughter is a total roar. You can see by the way Timmy jerks his head from side to side that the unexpected laughter is making him nervous. What he is unable to see, and is the cause of the laughter, is little Possum. He's taking the required steps all right ... but he's walking backwards - right on Timmy's heels! Jeremy can barely sustain himself and he finally reaches a garbled...

"TEN ... har, har, har!"

Timmy swings around and is staring into the distance, trying to line up his shot. You can see the perplexed look on his face. God ... this is soo funny, he's looking right over the top of Possum's head. The bottom of his face mask is hiding Possum from his view.

"Pssst ..." Possum says. Timmy looks down.

"Fffttt," Possum shoots him right in the foot.

"Owww" Timmy yells, dropping his gun. He's jumping up and down on one foot.

Once again this little guy has us all rolling on the ground in laughter. Oh my God ... Oh my God ... I don't believe this just happened! This is too much! Haaaa ... haaaa ...haaaa ... snort!

The little redhead smiles at his victim and says ...

"That's for laughing at me and my brother when we got shot in the nards Timmy. That really hurt. Oh, by the way, I only used one hand to shoot you with; I wanted to be fair ... haa, haa, haa!"

Those that are still able to laugh have just pitched up one octave higher. Me, I'm just lying here, holding my belly it hurts so much. I feel like I just got gut shot from two feet away. Haaaa ... haaaaaaaa .... hic!

Timmy's looking at his executioner and grinning, his foot no longer stinging.

"Oh yeah ... right buddy. You were really playing fair" he says, laughing.

By now the rest of us have ourselves under control. Jeremy says ...

"OK Timmy ... it may have been funnier than hell, but we have to call a foul against our Possum boy. I guess you win the contest by default Timmy."

"There are a few half-hearted "yays" in the crowd. Michael pulls a marksman medal from his pocket. I guess he picked it up when they got me my corporal's stripes.

"Here you go Timmy. This officially makes you our winner" as he hands the medal to our victor. Timmy takes it and says, to the group ...

"Thanks guys, but I don't deserve this. I am going to present this medal to my little buddies, Possum and Scooter, because they are far better shots than me. Besides, Possum's right, I shouldn't have laughed while they were in pain. I hope you can forgive me little guys."

"Awwww" everyone says in unison. The twins run up to Timmy and throw their arms around him. This gets a second chorus of "Awwww," and from Timmy ...

"Offff ... don't stand on my foot ... heheheh!"

"All right men" Jeremy shouts, "next battle!" We all gather round him and Michael.

"The name of this game is Civil War. We will split into two teams and start at opposite ends of the field. Each team makes a single long line across the field and then both teams slowly march towards one another, firing all the time. Actually, this is just the way they fought their battles in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. And it's really scary too, because you are standing out in the open and you don't know when, or if, you're going to get shot. To make it more realistic, we will be pretending to shoot muskets like they had back then. That means you are going to have to dig into your pocket and take out one paint-ball at a time to load into your rifle. The object is to be a good distance shooter and take out the other team before you get close enough to get shot yourself. Remember, your line will constantly move forward and no one is allowed to break formation - unless your dead. Does everyone understand?

They are all nodding their heads. It's a simple game really. But what Jeremy says is very true - it's scary. You are basically marching to your death, just like they did in the olden days. We play it just a little different at my paint-ball club, to add to the realism. I decide I'll share this with Jeremy and Michael.

"Yo ... sergeant" I holler, waving my hand.

"Yeah, Corporal Samuels, what is it?"

"What would you think of adding to the realism even more than you have. You know, make it seem like we are firing real muskets."

"Kool" Michael and Jeremy say together. "How do we do that Kyle?" Jeremy asks me.

"Well, you know those old muskets took a long time to load. First you had to pour powder into the barrel. Then you laid a cloth covered lead-ball on the barrel end and used a ram-rod to push it all the way down the barrel. Then you pulled the ram-rod out and stuck it into it's holder beneath the barrel. A good shooter could maybe get all this done in about twenty seconds. In my paint-ball club we are required to slowly count, out loud, to twenty once we load our gun. Only after the twenty seconds are over are we allowed to fire. We count out loud because our team mates keep us honest that way."

"Did you guys all understand that?" Michael asks the troops.

"Yeah" and "sure, sounds Kool" and "yep" are the answers we get. No one seems confused.

"This is great cuz it will make it twice as scary" Michael says. "Count like this ... 'one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand. You get that?"

Everyone nods their heads.

"OK" Michaels says. "Everyone pour the remainder of your white balls into this sack. We will give you each 30 red balls."

"Corporal Howe, come over here please" Jeremy calls out. I watch Scully trot over to his brother and they put their heads together. Jeremy shows him something in a sack and now Scully is laughing and nodding his head.

"Listen up guys" Jeremy says. "We don't have an even number of players here so Scully has volunteered to step out of this battle. We will get someone else to volunteer for the next one. But that doesn't mean that Scully won't be participating. He will be adding to the realism of the fight but we won't reveal how just yet."

"Does everyone have their thirty red paint-balls now?" Michael asks. There is a chorus of "yes'es."

"All right, I have a sack here with four green balls and four blue balls. Everyone will dip their hand into the sack and pick one out. This will determine what team you are on."

The kids all crowd around and, one by one, we pick out a ball. I have a blue one. I walk over to Scully who is standing back a ways holding the sack Jeremy gave him.

"I'm sorry you have to sit out this game bud. Maybe I'll volunteer for the next one."

The little guy just smiles at me and says "that's OK Kyle; I'll still be doing something fun. Here, look in this sack."

I peered into the bag he held open for me and ...

"I'll be darned! Are those cherry bombs?"

"Yep," he says, "our Dad brings them back from some of his business trips and we use them when we have our own paint-ball wars. They are to simulate cannon fire and battleground noise. We're just careful not to toss them anywhere near people. But when you hear these baby's going off it really makes your heart race."

"All right, blue team line up on me. Green team line up on Sergeant Howe"

I trot over to Jeremy, I guess he's leading my team. Timmy's with us and so is one of the twins. I tell the twin ...

"We need to give you guys name tags so we can tell you apart."

He grins and walks up to me. He points to the hairline above his forehead, "just look for this scar. Possum doesn't have one."

"OK Scooter; good to know" I tell him. We all trot to one end of the field while the green team trots to the other end.

"Form a line and spread out" Jeremy says, "get about twenty or thirty feet between each man. When Michael waves his hand at the other end to say they are ready I will blow this whistle and we'll start moving forward at a slow walking speed. Don't anyone get ahead and don't anyone lag behind. Now, Michael is the best shot out of that team so we are going to take him out first. I want all of you concentrating on Michael. When he's down, go for Possum cuz he's a good shot too. Everybody clear on this?"

Scooter pipes up, "how did the Civil War soldiers know which guy to shoot for in the real battle Jeremy? Did they have scorecards or something?" and he giggles.

"No dude, they just shot at whoever. But whenever you can work out a game plan it puts your team at a wee bit of an advantage. And we're going to kick some ass - RIGHT GUYS?"

"RIGHT!" we shout back. Michael waves his hand at the other end of the field and Jeremy puts the whistle up to his lips.

"Fweeeeeeeet" and we are walking foreward.

"Has everyone got a loaded gun? If not, load up now and reload immediately after you fire - don't forget to count."

Everyone nods their head to say we have loaded guns.

"When I say now, all of you drop to one knee, to get a better aim at Michael. Aim your gun high at about two of his body lengths because of the distance. As we get closer you won't need to lead by that much. OK ... get ready ... NOW!"

We all drop to one knee and take aim. I hear the "Fffftt" of four different guns firing, including my own. We stand up and look carefully into the distance and can make out red splats both in front of and behind Michael.

"Oh oh," Jeremy said. "We won't fire at the same time anymore. No one knows if they shot in front or behind Michael cuz we don't know whose bullet is whose."

By the time he finished talking we were all counting out "one-one thousand ..." and then all around me I hear ...

"Splat ... splat ...splat, splat" and red puffs of paint are splashing ... one very close to me and the others not quite so close."

"They're doing the same thing as us" Jeremy yells my way, "and it looks like they've picked you bud ... snort, snort!"

I can feel my heart beating like a kettle drum. I'm pretty sure that near hit must have come from Michael's gun. I finish counting to twenty, drop to my knee and aim at Michael. I've got to take him out soon or he'll have my range in another shot. I squeeze the trigger and watch for the results. I hear someone on my left fire and then someone on my right. My shot will hit first though cuz I fired first. KOOL, I only missed him by about a foot! I'm sure he got paint spattered all over his pants from that. Another red spat appears about five feet behind him and then one about ten feet in front of him. I hope my guys are paying attention as to who is shooting where. Now I'm up and moving forward again; I trot just a bit to catch up to my line of men.

All the time I'm busy concentrating on not getting killed, I don't notice Scully circling around behind my team. He has a Bic lighter in one hand and a cherry bomb in the other. I've counted to twenty again and I drop to one knee to take aim. I sight in perfectly and start to squeeze the trigger.

"BOOM" right behind me!!! Startled ... I jerk my gun up as I shoot. I can hear Scooter yelling ...

"They're cheating ... the fuckers ... they've got a cannon!" He's running around in little circles, like a headless chicken. The boy is in full panic mode. I guess the tension and realism have gotten to him. He thinks he's about to be blown into little red chunks of Scooter meat.

"Aawww" he yells and now he's headed off the battlefield. He is making a beeline for the camping area. He's zig-zagging so no one can draw a bead on him with cannon fire. He's way off the field now and I can still hear the "Waaaaaa". Oh my God ... I can't reload, I can't walk, I can't do anything but lie here and ....

"Bwaa-haaa-haaa-haaaaa!" I guess they're going to kill me, but I am paralyzed for the moment. Oh shit, I'm not the only one ... I recognize that laugh ...

"Haaar, haaaar, haaaar ... snort, snort ... har, har!"

I don't think Jeremy's going anywhere either, not for the moment. I roll over and look towards Timmy; he's on his hands and knees. Whoops ... well he was. Now he's lying on his side and braying like a donkey. I think Scully has just killed my entire troop with one cherry bomb!

"Splat, splat ... splat .........splat" The hand holding my heaving stomach has become a burst of red. Another hits my knee ... ouch! Well, that's it then ... I'm dead ... "Bwaaaaaa-haaaaa-haaaa!"

I guess Scully has realized that he has single-handedly done my team in. I guess he's feeling sorry for us now because he's flinging cherry bombs towards the advancing troops - all four of whom are still alive and in a killing frenzy.

"BOOM and Trevor, Marc and Possum hit the ground. They have their arms covering their heads.

"BOOM" Whoops ... Trevor's up and running! He sure as heck isn't running in this direction either.

"BOOM Look out Trevor ... here comes Possum! Trevor's running at a good rate of speed but Possum zooms past him. Trevor trips and falls. Wow ... you'd think that boy was a basketball the way he just bounced back up to his feet - he doesn't slow his stride one bit. Oh my God ... my stomach can't take any more ... "haaaa, haaaa, haaa"

I think Scooter's about to have some company in camp... very shortly. Michael is screaming at them. I can't make out all the words but 'pantywaists' comes through loud and clear.

Jeremy and Timmy are on their knees now and they're both taking aim.

"Fffft ... Fffffttt" and I look over to Michael who is still facing his retreating troops ... screaming at their disappearing backsides.

"Splat ... splat" OH MY GOD ... two direct hits! The top of Michael's head appears to burst in a spray of red, followed quickly by a burst at his hip." He throws down his mask and now he's jumping up and down. Hmmm ... pretty lively for a soldier with his brains scattered across a battlefield. I can hear some of his words now but I don't think I'll repeat them. Marc is standing up. He's not holding his weapon and ... both of his hands are in the air! Oh my God ... he's SURRENDERING!!! I can really hear Michael now ...

"Chicken shit ... chicken shit. Die like a soldier!"

"Fuck you Michael. This is too real! This is scary! Besides ... your dead, so quit talking to me!"

From the sound of all the 'har hars' and 'snorts' behind me, I don't think Scully is capable of launching any more mortar rounds at our defeated enemy. It's just as well though; one more "Boom" and Marc would be standing in a brown puddle!

"Yahoo" I yell out, "we win ... WE WIN!"

Later, back at the camping spot. It's a pretty somber group of boys gathered around the table.

"Ah, come on guys; are you sure you don't want another battle?"

"Hell no" is the only answer I care to repeat. The others are decidedly more spicy.

"But guys" Michael adds, "we told you those were just cherry bombs, not real mortars."

"Tell that to the SHIT in my pants Michael" Scooter shouts. "I dumped a load from the field all the way back to this camp spot. A dead bloodhound could follow my trail!"

Snickering from the troops until Possum gives them the evil eye.

"While you guys were finishing your war, I was scrubbing my pants, underwear and ass in that stream." he says, pointing at the creek. "I even had to scrub my left sock and scrape my shoe!" The place erupts in laughter!

Poor Timmy, he is trying soo hard to be sympathetic to his little boy-toy. But his face is beat-red as he valiantly tries to hold in his laughter. He reaches over and pats Possum on the back, carefully facing away from him.

Michael and Jeremy aren't as valiant however and ...

"Har ... haaaar ... haaaaaar ... snort, snort!"

That kicks everyone else up a notch until even Timmy can't hold it in anymore. Possum walks around to stand in front of Timmy and stares up into his face. Timmy has his hands covering his face and he is still trying mightely to hold it in. Then Possum starts giggling and that seems to give Timmy the permission he needs to let it out ... "haaaa ... haaaa ... haaaa!"

Soon the twins have got themselves wrapped around their hero again and all three are laughing. Scully walks over to me and puts his hand around my waist, laughing and snorting. I pull him into me with my arm around his shoulder. Lord oh Lordy, I don't know if my stomach will ever stop hurting. But holding this little cutey is pretty darn good medicine I'd say.

*For our non-American readers. Black Fag is a word play on a popular American insecticide 'Black Flag'.

Well, I'm afraid this chapter got a little long for the promised pool party. Guess we are just going to have to leave that one for the next chapter. Sorry about the cliff hanger. [Yeah right; Ed.]

Copyright 2007. All rights retained. No duplication without author's permission. No posting on another web-site without approval. No smoking in the shower (you'll get your butt wet).

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